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June 27, 2009

Reaction to Daily News Editorial

Today's Daily News editorial, "Build, Bruce, build: Developer Ratner presses ahead on Atlantic Yards" brought immediate reaction from the blogs Queens Crap (The Daily News editorial board smokes crack) and Atlantic Yards Report (Daily News disses straphangers, endorses Ratner bailout). Below is each point of the Daily News editorial followed by each blogger's reaction:

Bully to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for making a deal that keeps the Atlantic Yards development alive in Brooklyn. And bully to builder Bruce Ratner for hanging in there to get the project done.

AYR: It doesn't keep the development alive. It keeps the arena (and one building) alive. Ratner, who was willing to pause construction on the Beekman Tower in Lower Manhattan to renegotiate more favorable terms with unions, was not so much "hanging in there" but gaining the benefit of an agency run by a governor and mayor unwilling to challenge him.

QC: Bully? More like bullshit. The guy came in with a lower bid that for some strange reason was accepted by the MTA and is now scaling back every aspect of what he promised while the MTA is currently up shit's creek and forcing riders to pony up more money at the turnstile.

After five years, the defeat of 23 lawsuits and an economic meltdown, he is pushing to start the $4 billion development's first component: an 18,000-seat arena, home to the Nets and a major entertainment venue.

AYR: Or, alternatively, he's desperate to start before the December 31 deadline for tax-exempt bonds.

QC: The lawsuits aren't over yet. And the city needs this like we need a hole in our heads.

The plan then envisions construction of 6,400 apartments (35% of them deemed affordable), a school and a health care center, amid 8 acres of open space. This good stuff would be located primarily on land that has been vacant for decades, including a Long Island Rail Road yard.

AYR: "Primarily" is a weasel word. The railyard has always been used as a railyard--and still would be used as such. Only recently did the rise in property value make it feasible to deck over railyards. As for the rest of the properties, most haven't been vacant for decades. Some have been vacant only since Forest City Ratner bought them and razed them.

The school would be built by the School Construction Authority.

QC: Huh? They do realize that much of that 8 acres of open space was bulldozed and that there are still several buildings in the footprint of the planned development, right? Here's a map of a walking tour of the area. And the rest of the space is and always has been an active railyard... Vacant?

But financing is not as available as it was a few years ago. The MTA board wisely voted to let Ratner pay $100 million over time for the rights to build above the yards, rather than demand a lump sum. With interest, the agency comes out whole.

AYR: Comes out whole? What about the generous 6.5% interest rate? The $100 million loss (and savings to Ratner) on the new permanent yard? The temporary yard that would linger twice as long as projected?

QC: Does anyone not smoking crack seriously believe that? Especially when Bruce asks for more money every time you turn around and this very paper reported that the arena would be a big money loser?

Ratner will now seek private financing for the arena. His bankers hope to raise the money by the end of the year. Wouldn't that be nice for Brooklyn?

AYR: "Private financing" would be tax-exempt financing, with Ratner likely saving more than $100 million thanks to federal subsidies. The "end of the year" deadline drove the breakneck pace for this deal, in which the MTA board had all of two days to consider it. The newspaper somehow ignores that the New York City Independent Budget now says the arena would be a money-loser for the city.

QC: No, it wouldn't. The plan calls for eminent domain abuse, would put some parts of Brooklyn in 24-hour darkness, create a clusterfuck of traffic, and build an entire new neighborhood full of "superblocks" in the middle of low-rise areas. And those are just the things I can think of at 6am off the top of my head.

Posted by steve at June 27, 2009 8:39 AM